Viewing: paper

Old Manila notebooks by 23060

I seem to be in the mood for architectural drawings these days. After sending out my canal house Christmas cards, I rewarded myself by placing an order for these illustrated kraft paper notebooks by Kath Mitra of 23060.

I first saw them on Daphne’s blog and was immediately drawn to the line drawings of old Manila churches—I just love old buildings. I eventually found my way to Kath’s Facebook page and ordered a set of three notebooks (Php 559, or €10) to add to my little stationery collection. They will be sent to my mom’s house while I’m in Manila for the holidays, so yay!

An architect by profession, Kath draws buildings for a living and for fun. Fascinated by stories her history professors would tell about old Manila, Kath set out to create notebooks and products that bring Manila’s faded architectural treasures to life. She has a series of notebooks featuring Manila’s Art Deco cinemas such as the Metropolitan and Capitol Theaters, and is working on designs for mugs, cushions, coasters and more.

“I make notebooks so people will know about these buildings, and appreciate the fact that these beautiful structures are not found in Paris, Tokyo or wherever, but in the Philippines,” says Kath. “It makes me happy whenever people recognize the buildings printed on the things I sell. I get a sense of fulfilment whenever the architect behind the buildings I use is acknowledged or remembered. I guess I’m sentimental like that.”

With just a few days to go until I fly home for the holidays, Manila is very much on my mind. I know the heat will probably be torturous, but there’s nothing like Christmas in Manila. I can’t wait to be home!

Notebooks from LikeStationery

Before things get lost in all the baby excitement, I wanted to show off a few goodies that I picked up from Kleine Fabriek. It was a trade event, so I couldn’t buy any of the adorable children’s clothes and things on display from the exhibitors. However, that doesn’t mean my wallet escaped scot-free!

Not when a funky pop-up shop from Dutch webstore LikeStationery was on site to tempt me with its irresistible wares. LikeStationery is the online store of Amsterdam-based graphic Sanne Dirkzwager, a.k.a. Strawberryblonde, who, as her shop name implies, has a passion for stationery. Something I’m sure lots of girls can relate to… like I do.

I love paper, but notebooks are my true weakness. My mom loves them too, and my growing collection of unused notebooks—which grows after every trip—is one of the things that makes me realize that perhaps we are all destined to turn into our mothers someday. (My penchant for red lipstick is another.)

So I just couldn’t resist picking up these adorable notebooks at LikeStationery’s pop-up store. I’ve been craving for color during this (mostly) drab gray summer. Since I couldn’t choose between something pastel or bright, I got both. The Swedish words on the pastel one pushed my wanderlust button.

I also couldn’t pass up this sunshiny yellow notebook with a library card slot in the front. This reminds me of a childhood pleasure: borrowing books from the school library! I was a voracious reader as a kid, a true librarian’s pet and nerd-in-the-making who always filled up several library cards each school year.

Aside from the notebooks, I also bought a smart little earphone winder. It’s just a simple strip of suede, but it keeps things tidy and (the most important thing) I have managed to somehow not lose it yet. Sometimes the simplest things work best.

LikeStationery offers worldwide shipping and has a fun, colorful blog chronicling the inspirations behind the shop’s wares, as well as Sanne’s own design work.

Do you find stationery irresistible too? What form of paper can you absolutely not resist?

Mucha on my mind

How was your Easter weekend? Mine was quiet and laid-back, made all the better by the company of a wonderful guest from home.
Just one last Prague post before I move on. I couldn’t leave Prague without having paid a visit to the Mucha Museum, which houses the major works of one of my favorite artists, Alphonse Mucha.
One of my favorite coloring books when I was a kid was my Art Nouveau stained glass coloring book from Goodwill Bookstore. To this day, I love Art Nouveau, and Mucha is Art Nouveau.
When I started working at GMA, I considered it destiny that I ended up in an office where the glass walls of the pantry were plastered with a huge mural of Mucha’s Dance (above). I managed to transmit my Mucha fixation to my work partner Charlie, an insanely talented art director who also tended to obsession. Mucha’s Dance became the jump-off point for a slew of Art Nouveau-inspired outdoor and print materials for a big account that took over our lives. I wish I kept copies of Charlie’s work, it was all so gorgeous.

Mucha’s work is not high art, but it is beautiful. Though he painted, most of his work was fairly commercial: from theater posters to advertisements for champagne and milk to biscuit tins. Many examples of his work, like Spring, Grapes, the poster for Lorenzaccio, and The Slav Epic (all of which I saw at the museum) today are in the public domain.

It was amazing to come face to face with works that I had only seen as small pictures in books, and realize that they are actually HUGE. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed inside the Mucha Museum. So I had to settle for taking photos outside. That day, I was in “simple girl” mode with the Longchamp bag and ponytail, although I would hope the Marni for H&M top elevates it somewhat.
I took home a few postcards of my favorite works.

My favorite souvenir, though, was this handmade notebook. I love notebooks, so this was perfect for me. But it was also very unusual in that it harbored a few hidden treasures. Click on through to peek inside…

Details from Mucha pieces are stencilled and printed inside.

Random quotes are stamped inside. This one about writing called to me, naturally.

What I really loved, though were the pages from old Czech books, together with vintage Czech photos, that were bound with the blank pages. And at the very end, snail mail from the sixties.

It was the perfect purchase: Mucha’s art and a trip to a Prague flea market all bound up in one neat, locally handmade package. If only more museum shop souvenirs were this creative!

Amsterdam’s biggest flea market

I love me some old things, so I was delighted when one of my friends suggested a girls’ day out at the the IJ-Hallen flea market in Amsterdam Noord. 
Held in a huge warehouse in the old shipyards of the NDSM-Werf (or wharf), it has over 500 stalls selling second-hand items, making it the largest flea market in Amsterdam. The IJ-Hallen flea market is held on the first weekend of every month and costs €4 to get in. Sometimes, they will have a second market day focusing on certain kinds of goods; this March, it’s toys, miniatures, dolls and dollhouses. 
The IJ-Hallen is not nearly as atmospheric as, say, Les Puces de St-Ouen in Paris, but it has its own unique vibe being in a huge industrial complex where ships were once built.
Click “read more” for the full IJ-Hallen thrifting experience, plus our finds for the day!

As with most thrift shops and flea markets, majority of the items for sale are junk. Still, if you are diligent and have a keen eye, there are treasures to be found, ranging from the pretty… 
to the quirky… 
… to the simply nostalgic. 
I was in the market for a vintage wool coat in an interesting color or pattern. I found racks upon racks of winter coats for just €25 apiece, but I was not lucky that day. Check out how far above me the coats are hanging; this is a very typical short-person-in-Holland problem. 
Still, I was happy just rummaging and taking photographs.

As my designated pack mule, Marlon was the only guy in our group. I love how he not only indulges my love of old things, but has also come to appreciate them. For his time and patience spending a day thrifting with a gaggle of girls, he rewarded himself with a handful of funky old die-cast cars from the 1960s.

As for me, I fell in love with these vintage postcards featuring hand-tinted photographs of Zaandvoort and Scheveningen, the beaches closest to Amsterdam and the Hague. They were postmarked between 1903 and 1910, making them over a hundred years old.

I love it when I stumble upon something combines several of my many loves. In the case of these postcards, it’s the beach, vintage, paper and, on the back, beautiful cursive handwriting. 
Can you believe everyone used to write like this, back in the day?
We also picked up a couple of things for the home: a tiny crate to use as a magazine rack in our equally tiny toilet, and a vintage glass decanter, which is the kind of purchase that makes you feel very grown up.

And yes, my bathroom reading material is proudly Filipino!

Van Dijk & Ko

Be prepared for a slew of thrifting posts from me over the next few days. I’m obsessed with finding a desk for my soon-to-be home office, and since I’m on a budget, checking out second-hand sources has been my top priority. One (rare) sunny Saturday morning, my search for the perfect second-hand desk led me across the river IJ (pronounced “eye”) to Amsterdam Noord, which is 14 minutes by ferry from Centraal Station.
Amsterdam Noord is still largely industrial, but it’s considered an “up-and-coming” (i.e. increasingly livable, secretly hip) neighborhood. With wide roads, little greenery and a surfeit of warehouses, it feels like a different planet from the rest of Amsterdam. 
It’s also a killer bike ride, because nothing cuts the wind, which (on the day we were there, at least) is inescapable and so very strong. I felt like 20-pound weights were hanging from my handlebars. 

But my fietsje (little bike) and I forged ahead anyway. I say “little,” because my trusty baby blue cruiser who came all the way from Singapore is microscopic by Dutch standards. I feel like I get strange looks whenever I’m out biking; I’ve seen 11 year-olds riding bigger bikes than mine.

In contrast, Marlon, who bikes to work everyday, has a proper Dutch bike. They call it an oma fiets (granny bike). It’s higher, so you can fully extend your legs while biking and prevent damage to your knees. I don’t bike often enough to care about that stuff, although I should.

Anyway, there was a good reason for the killer bike ride: to explore the 2,500 square-meter second-hand wonderland known as Van Dijk en Ko.

Step inside, after the jump!

All those cliches about shining eyes and a song in your heart? That’s me entering a place like this. Imagine four times this long warehouse space, filled with old books and furniture from the Netherlands, Belgium, France…
… Romania and Hungary. You could kind of tell which pieces were from Eastern Europe: the ones that were folksier, with more pattern and color.

Another Hungarian import sold at Van Dijk en Ko: gorgeous hand-blown glassware. They are brand new, not second hand.

We have way too many glasses as it is, but I need to come back for some of these.

Old mail sacks made of linen, also from France and Hungary, are sold by the meter. I would love a classic French armchair reupholstered in this material.

Aside from books and furniture, there are also lots of old building materials and parts of houses. Iron gate as headboard, anyone?

I could have grabbed a roll of vintage wallpaper for future projects. But I have too much paper at home already.
If we hadn’t been on our bikes, I would have loved to pick up a few of these giant beakers, in arresting hues of emerald and cobalt. 

More impractical but no less eye-catching: a card catalog (remember those?) and a black horse on wheels. I’d love to see someone cycling around the streets of Amsterdam on that!

Though I took my time browsing and loved doing so, I was a good girl that day. My only purchase was a jar of fountain pens (for my newest hobby) at 50 cents apiece.

Unfortunately, my desk eluded me. On to the next!


After a two-week hiatus (sister’s visit and Portugal trip, both of which are next on my blogging agenda), Make It Monday is back!

This was very different from my first Make It Monday, when I had absolutely idea what I wanted to make and took three hours to do it when I finally figured it out. I’ve been collecting ideas since that first Monday, and this time I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish. It took me less than an hour!

I first saw these old photos of my parents last Christmas. My mom had unpacked an old box of family photos, and both my sister and I took snaps of our favorite ones since we didn’t have a scanner at home. These were taken in Hong Kong, probably when they were in their late 20s, somewhere in the vicinity of how old Marlon and I are now.

Mom really looks like my sister here! Through most of her 20s, actually.

Some of my favorite design blogs feature homes with cutout silhouettes hung on the walls. So I made my own version using these old photos, strips of this fluorescent yellow translucent paper that I’ve been obsessed with, and sections of unused Laura Ashley (80s flashback!) wallpaper that Marlon found on the same street corner as our dining room chairs.

Then I put them into vintage gold frames that I bought during the Queen’s Day flea market in our neighborhood, just a few doors down from where we got the chairs, actually. A little old lady (there are legions of them around here) was selling them for €4 apiece. In hindsight, I wish I had bought a few more.

Now they’re hung on our dove gray living room wall, beside a pair of Indian miniatures from Udaipur. Or at least they will be until Mom visits at the end of the month… I suspect she’ll make a bid for them then!

School days

I’ve been looking for art to hang alongside the two Indian miniature paintings that Marlon and I bought on our honeymoon in Rajasthan. We’ve already put up most of our art, and none of them seemed to go with those two paintings in particular, either in style or in theme. 
Then I realized I had just the thing to go with the Indian miniatures: a family album of old photographs of India from the 1950s and 1960s. I first discovered this album in my mom’s drawer back in high school. It was packed with some things of my dad’s, like old passports. I’m guessing either he owned it or my Dima, his mother, kept it for him as a chronicle of his school days.
A little bit about my dad: he was named Amitabha, but known to family and friends as Gandhi because he was born on the date of Gandhi’s death. (Nicknames are a big thing in Bengali culture.) At the age of 5, he won a huge regional quiz contest where the prize was a coveted scholarship to a British-run boarding school in the Himalayas, where India’s elite sent their children to study.
This was a major deal. It made him something of a golden boy among his clan, the best and brightest, the family’s pride. This sort of hero status surrounded him his whole life and extended to my mom, sister and me. I really feel it whenever I go to Calcutta; as Gandhi’s daughter, I get the star treatment. My dad’s boarding school education led to a scholarship at AIM, and eventually to a career in trading, banking and finance in Hong Kong and Manila, then the financial capitals of Asia.

Not bad for a young boy from a simple family from Calcutta. Dima was always so proud of him. Here is Dima in her younger days. Something about this photo reminds me of my sister.
Out of all the photos in the album, it was the glimpses of my dad’s boarding school life in 1950s India that really captivated me.

 I think my dad’s the one on the top left, in the singlet and sailor hat.
 Second row, second from left. I’ve had that same expression in class pictures.
Swimming lesson.
 Military training. We had that too.

 School dance. Already happening in India in the 1950s, 
but forbidden in my high school in the 1990s. WTF.
 Sometime close to graduation, I’m guessing. My dad is seated, on the right.
There are also some beautiful vignettes of India. These pictures are so small and delicate—some are just half the size of my iPhone. This is one of the larger, sharper ones.
I’ve decided that my new project will be to hunt for vintage frames for my favorite photos from this album. It will be hard to choose just a few… I might end up filling an entire wall!